Merck & Co has agreed to pay between $3 million and $10 million to settle a nearly decade old class-action lawsuit that alleged the company made false claims about the benefits of its Coppertone sunscreen products.
Merck acquired the popular Coppertone franchise in 2009 when it bought U.S. rival Schering-Plough Corp, and thereby inherited the 2003 lawsuit.
Merck denied any wrongdoing or liability or that anyone was harmed by the allegedly exaggerated claims for Coppertone sprays and lotions cited in the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of numerous consumers.
It agreed to the settlement "solely for the purpose of avoiding the burden, expense, risk and uncertainty of continuing to litigate those issues," the company said in the settlement agreement filed last Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Merck agreed that all Coppertone sunscreen products manufactured on or after June 22, 2012 for sale in the United States, its territories and possessions, will not use the terms "sunblock," "waterproof," "sweatproof," "all day" and/or "all day protection" in the label, advertising, marketing or promotion of the products.
Once the settlement becomes final, members of the class who bought the Coppertone products at issue will be able to submit a claim worth up to $1.50 for each eligible sunscreen product purchased.
Merck spokesman Ron Rogers said all Coppertone products meet the latest standards for broad-spectrum sun protection set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and added they carry product information consistent with the FDA standards.
(Reporting by Bill Berkrot and Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Bernard Orr)